WASHINGTON (AP) -- Mothers facing new welfare rules are finding jobs and earning more money. But they haven't improved their parenting skills, they still have trouble paying rent, and they spend less time with their kids, according to a three-state study that examined details of family life.
The findings, being released Tuesday, add texture to the results of the massive welfare overhaul in 1996, which required recipients to work and set time limits on how long anyone could get help. The changes helped cut the rolls by more than half, but less is known about how children were affected.
"It's not really clear that simply moving women into jobs -- especially part-time, low-wage jobs -- will advance their children's preparation for school," said Sharon Lynn Kagan of Teachers College at Columbia University, a co-director of the study, which followed more than 700 families in California, Connecticut and Florida.
The findings are consistent with earlier studies and raise questions about what constitutes success in an area where politicians regularly declare victory.
Numerous state-run studies of people leaving welfare have found that most earned more than they got from welfare, but not enough to leave poverty, with a number of families facing day-to-day hardships.
The three-state study focused on mothers with young children. Participating moms had children around 2 1/2 years old when they entered welfare between 1996 and 1998 and were first interviewed. They were interviewed again in 2000.
Researchers found that after two to four years, mothers were no less likely to read with their kids, set regular meal times or be more affectionate. Mothers were just as likely to be depressed as they were before being pushed into jobs.
Family income rose, with the average mother earning about $13,000 a year.
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